Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway says she’ll freeze most state regulations, and block implementation of many federal ones, if she’s elected governor in 2016.
Speaking Tuesday to members of the Regional Chamber, Hanaway – a Republican from St. Louis County – presented a vision of a more assertive governor when it comes to confronting the federal government.
“We need not be an echo chamber for every regulatory initiative that comes down from the federal government,’’ she said. “We need not automatically adopt every executive order and have our state departments carry it out.”
Although Hanaway didn’t mention Gov. Jay Nixon by name, the implication was that Nixon – a Democrat – has been too eager to go along with whatever President Barack Obama’s administration wanted.
Among other things, Hanaway made clear that she opposed any expansion of Medicaid as sought under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Medicaid provides coverage for low-income and disabled people. Missouri currently has one of the strictest eligibility rates in the nation. Most adults can earn no more than 19 percent of the federal poverty level -- or $2,217 a year -- to qualify for coverage.
“I do not think the way to solve our health-care problems in Missouri is to expand the entitlements,” Hanaway said. During her time in the Missouri House, Hanaway added that she observed the last federal expansion of Medicaid during President Bill Clinton’s administration – the federal program broadening coverage for children.
“It got to the point that it was breaking the state’s budget in the early 2000s,’’ she said. Hanaway served as speaker in 2003- 2004; she had left office when the General Assembly cut or curbed benefits for 300,000 low-income Missourians in 2005.
Hanaway said that she recognized that Missouri hospitals were hurting because they were losing the federal aid that used to cover the costs of treating uninsured people. That aid is being phased out because the Medicaid expansion is designed to provide coverage for those people.
Hanaway said she was willing to discuss the general issue with hospitals, but she emphasized, “I think we should find a Missouri solution that doesn’t expand entitlement rolls.”
Promises to be pro-business
Hanaway contended that the best way to improve health-care access in the state was to attract more businesses, thus creating more jobs.
To that end, she promised “to go out and create and find and develop quality jobs for Missourians.’’
“We’re still down 58,000 jobs’’ from late 2008, when the economic downturn began, she said.
To be successful, she said that the state needs to cut back regulations and suggested she would support “realignment of some labor policies.” She previously has said she would back a “right to work’’ law to bar employers and unions from requiring all workers to pay dues if a majority votes to join a union.
"Anything that is a barrier to either business growing here or coming here, I'm going to be an enemy to that barrier,'' she said.
A lawyer, Hanaway also called for “real tort reform’’ aimed at curbing lawsuits against businesses.
To that end, Hanaway made clear that she will be more assertive than Nixon in dealing with the General Assembly. “We can’t continue to have the legislature doing one thing and the governor doing another,’’ she said. “I’m concerned that we’re spending too much time in the legislature playing ‘small ball.’ "
Hanaway does appear to approve Nixon’s efforts to curb state tax credit programs. She indicated that she would try to trim historic tax credits, which have been used extensively in St. Louis to rebuild downtown and some neighborhoods.
Hanaway said that the state’s return is roughly 60 cents on every $1 in tax credits, implying that the gain doesn't justify the cost.
Blames Koster for early start on campaign
Hanaway currently works for the St. Louis law firm of Husch Blackwell, which also employs state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country and the likely next state House speaker in 2015. State Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, also works at the same firm.
Hanaway blamed Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for her decision to announce her bid for governor months ago. Koster, a Democrat (and former Republican), made clear in early 2013 that he planned to run for governor in 2016.
“I think Republicans have lost elections for governor recently because we started too late,’’ she said.
State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican seeking re-election in November, has indicated that he may announce for governor soon after the election. His campaign has been sharply critical of the $750,000 donation that Hanaway recently received from wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, the state’s top political donor.
Hanaway didn’t mention Sinquefield by name but told chamber members that his generous donation would be overshadowed by the $15 million or more than she will need to raise for her campaign.
She acknowledged that it has been a challenge to raise money, particularly since she no longer holds public office. Schweich so far has outraised Hanaway.
Hanaway quipped that when it comes to campaign donations, “I have a completely different perspective now on the power of incumbency at this point.”